A Republican bill that passed out of committee this week would allow employers to penalize employees who don't submit to genetic testing and hand over the results, STAT reports. According to the New York Times, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act would also give employers access to the genetic information of employees' families and children, as well. Supporters of the bill say it's needed to streamline increasingly popular workplace wellness programs. Employees who voluntarily participate in these programs are eligible for health insurance discounts worth potentially thousands of dollars, and employers say the programs encourage their employees to live healthier lives.
Opponents of the bill—including AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Diabetes Association—say employers shouldn't have access to employees' genetic information that doesn't impact their ability to do their job. The bill would take away protections from health-based discrimination because employees technically volunteered the information to save money on health insurance. Critics say this is more like coercion. If the bill passes, employers would be able to increase discounts for participating in wellness programs—and therefore, critics say, punishments for not participating. It would also allow the outside companies that run wellness programs to share employees' genetic information, as they already do with other health info. (Read more genetic testing stories.)